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A tough stance on travel will save the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) £20 million by the end of the year, according to its head of business services.
Matthew Griffin told ABTN that half of the savings would come from a revised rail travel policy introduced earlier this year.
Staff can no longer book first-class travel for journeys of less than two hours, while pre-trip approval is required for any employee wanting to sit in the premium carriage for longer journeys.
Griffin said that this year only 2.3% of the total number of tickets booked were in first class, down from 35% last year, while 60% were restricted advance purchase tickets, up 50% on last year.
He said the challenge was obtaining sign off on his stricter new policy from the department's executive team, after which it was a “straightforward” task to obtain worker compliance.
“The only complication was that the general election [in May] held up implementation by a month,” said Griffin.
“Compliance was high [from the start] and any non-compliance was reported to each executive to take action on a fortnightly basis, which included league tables to show which area was working best.”
Griffin said it had become compulsory for every worker to use the DWP’s rail self-booking tool (thetrainline.com) and in rare cases contact the travel management company, Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT).
Compliance levels have already reached 98%, according to Griffin, while the average price paid by the DWP for a rail fare was now £35, down from £55 in the third financial quarter of last year.
A 50% reduction in air travel, a new consolidated hotel programme and increasing use of video conferencing facilities made up the other £10 million worth of savings, though Griffin said the DWP’s reduction in conference spend – 70% down on last year – was the single most significant area.
“Our policy asks [our travellers] to not travel first, before providing a list of options, of which one is video conferencing (VC).
“I changed the way we book VC to make it easier, and it’s all online. We have six very impressive telepresence suites, alongside 350 other units across our estate.”
Griffin said that he was pleased with the progress that had been made so far this year, but said further cuts and the London Olympics in 2012 would make present even more tough challenges.